“Ideas on earth were badges of friendship or emnity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends in order to express friendship. Enemies disagreed with enemies in order to express emnity.”
-Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
Take a look at the news. Tribalism is rampant. As the barriers to communication and connection crumble day by day, somehow, instead of drawing closer, we are becoming more isolated. As Stephen Fry said in a recent debate on political correctness, ‘a chasm is opening’.
So what can we do about it?
Here’s some homework for you to get started:
- Challenge your assumptions.
- Act like you have something to learn from those you disagree with.
- Do your research, and not just from sources which echo your views.
You might be surprised about what you learn – or you might not. But even the attempt to bridge the gaping chasm between ideologies means something in this day and age.
When you have no idea what’s going on, acknowledging your uncertainty and striving to educate yourself (instead of feigning confidence and blithely forging ahead anyway) is one of the bravest things you can do. Changing your mind shouldn’t be seen as a sign of weakness.
Admittedly, this kind of thinking outside the box is becoming increasingly difficult for the average person. The sophisticated algorithms of the various tech giants who are so involved in our lives work tirelessly, aiming to show us exactly what we want to see, when we want to see it. Still, it’s not an impossible barrier to overcome.
You see, as members of society, as human beings, we all have a role to play. We’ve got to try to figure out which ideas are good and which bad, based on their actual merit – not simply who suggests them, and whether we like that person or not.
The job of sifting through ideas – separating those that advance the human condition and those which cause it’s regression – could be the most important challenge we face collectively.
So, let’s fight the urge to band together into toxic, tribal teams, scoring points and revelling in the hurly burly of the game. Let’s try something different. Let’s strip our badges of friendship and emnity and look at the idea itself.